The gold leaf walls and elegant sweeping roof of Kinkakuji’s reliquary reflects in the water of the temple’s stunning gardens, creating a dual image of wealth and tranquility. It has long been one of Japan’s most renowned cultural treasures and classic mirror photos –you’ll have to compete with throngs of domestic tourists unless you arrive early. However, whatever the season, time spent elsewhere in the garden will reward you with the most contemplative of Kyoto’s landscapes, and you’ll wish you could retire here, like the shogun who built it once desired. A phoenix crests the pavilion roof, one that indeed rose from the ashes after the original 550 year old building was burnt to the ground in 1950. The story of the suicidal arsonist monk was fictionalised in Yukio Mishima’s Temple of the golden pavilion – it’s said that if you visit Kinkakuji and read the work of Japan’s most famous writer and modern day samurai, you’ll come closer to knowing the soul of Japan.